Help Me Plan My Asia Trip, Starting With Singapore!

by on March 16, 2012 · 76 comments

in Singapore Airlines, Trip Reports

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This is an installment in my March 2012 Asia Trip Series which includes: A Birthday Present To Myself: Business Class on the World’s Longest Flight for $2.50Help Me Plan My Asia Trip Starting With SingaporeFlight Review: Singapore Airlines All Business Class Flight From Newark To SingaporeHotel Review: Intercontinental SingaporeVideo Trip Report: SingaporeHotel Review: Le Meridien Bangkok Avantec SuiteVideo Trip Report: BangkokHotel Review: Le Meridien AngkorVideo Trip Report: Siem ReapHotel Review: Intercontinental Phnom PenhVideo Trip Report: Phnom Penh and the Khmer Rouge Killing FieldsHotel Review: W Hong Kong.

Photo courtesy of YourSingapore.

Like I said when I decided to go to China back in January, one of my resolutions this year is to see more of Asia. That’s why for my birthday last week I decided to book myself a ticket in business class on the longest commercial flight in the world: Singapore Airlines flight SQ21 from Newark to Singapore using 60,000 United miles I scored by transferring my Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus of 50,000 points (expired) and the rest I earned on spending and the 7% year-end points dividend plus $2.50 in fees. Not bad for a ticket that would cost over $4,500 otherwise!

I’ll be taking you along for the ride with videos of the experience and showing just what it takes to endure a flight that lasts nearly 19 hours.

Meanwhile, this will be my first visit to Singapore and I want your input on where I should go, what I should do and see, and most importantly, where and what I should eat! And if any of you TPG readers are around, I would love to meet up while I’m there.

For those of you who live in other parts of Asia, I’ll be asking you for your advice on my next destinations on this trip including Bangkok, Cambodia and Hong Kong so stay tuned. As always – appreciate your advice!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Danny

    This is not an original answer, but hey I’ve never been to Singapore so what else would I say? Gary recently had a trip report up. I’d go eat whatever he ate because (a) it looked good and (b) guy seems like he knows how to find good food.

  • Michael Prassel

    Definitely watch the Singapore episode of The Layover with Anthony Bourdain.

  • The World of Deej

    Yeah what Michael said…it was a great episode. I want to visit every Hawker house in the city, and cap it off with drinks in the pool at Marina Bay Sands…

  • Stacey @Verygoodpoints

    60k miles one way or round trip?
    You should do the Night Safari while you’re there
    Go to the Hawker center for Hainanese chicken. All the stalls are great.

  • Gary Leff

    I mention drinks at Ku De Ta at the Marina Bay Sands in my report on last year’s dinner at Waku Ghin there

    I returned to Waku Ghin for dinner, didn’t go up there for drinks, in my latest trip I’m reporting on now. There are plenty of bars with great views of Singapore, of course.

    For the Hawker stalls, that is quintessential Singapore of course, and there are partisans that will speak up violently for each of the different Hawker centers. You’ll probably get the best Char Kway Teow at one of the stalls at the Old Airport Road center ( — I don’t care — I personally love the stalls at the East Coast Lagoon Food Village ( because my favorite place for Laksa is there and because the evening ambiance is just lovely on the beach.

    Of course visit the Zoo, during the day or for Night Safari.

  • Gary Leff

    That’s one way, of course :)

  • Phil

    19 hours of Singapore Airlines service is nothing to “endure” :)

  • thepointsguy

    Glad you picked up on that :-)

  • RakSiam

    I think Ben recently had a Singapore TR too.

    Will definitely have some ideas on Thailand and Cambodia when the time comes. :-) SE Asia is my favorite part of the world.

  • Charlene Wang

    excited to see what your tips are for thailand & cambodia! traveling there as well this summer.

  • Stacey @Verygoodpoints

    The Points Guy could have some secret in :)

  • Curtis

    Without a doubt, make SURE that you check out the Zoo and the Orchid Garden. Those were simply amazing. The Zoo has many many animals that you can get pretty close to (yet still safe due to the way they designed the areas), and the orchid garden is by far the most orchids you will ever see in one spot in your life.

  • emmygofly

    I really enjoyed the night safari at the zoo. Check out Raffles hotel. And if you dont mind paying a ridiculous amount for a cocktail, drink one of their Singapore slings on an outdoor patio. (they claim to have invented this drink). Hawkers markets abound. We also took a ride in the Singapore Flyer (the tallest ferris wheel in the world) which was a great way to get a view of the island. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Botanic gardens. I also would be interested in seeing the new-ish casinos, which were still under construction when I was last there. One dish recommendation would be Laksa, which is a coconut-based curry soup.

  • Albert611

    Brian – can you also document how you go about searching for and booking the award tickets on SQ? I’m also looking to book the same trip but issue is that I have enough points for a OW on each of Sapphire Preferred and Amex Platinum.

  • Heather

    I absolutely enjoyed Singapore out of all of my business trips! Beautiful and very clean. Except for Brazil, I had an amazing hotel room. I took a day tour which explored the gardens and such, and also went over to Sentosa Island via cable car. Make sure you spend time over at Sentosa Island. Have fun!

  • Amber

    Make sure you get some chilli crab and black pepper crab while you’re there!

  • William

    The real problem with the SQ flight is that you depart in the dark, fly in the dark and land in the dark, two days later. It really upsets your bio clock. No way around it, it is a brutal flight, even on the best carrier in the world.

  • Heather

    BTW, here is the hotel my company had me stay at:

    M Hotel Singapore, awarded Best Deluxe Hotel by Hospitality Asia 2009 – 2011, Singapore Series is strategically located in the heart of the Financial District and close to the festivities of the city and Orchard Road. All 413 guestrooms cleverly combine a home and office with a comfortable rest area and practical workstation complete with modern technological amenities including broadband Internet access for discerning business travelle

  • David Adams

    I will second the recommendation that you visit one of the big markets. We went late in the evening, and it was a vibrant crush of humanity, but, being Singapore, it felt both safe and adventurous. I bought my kids some t-shirts for about $3 and we had fruit juices and other street food.

  • Carl

    +1 on Night Safari. For lodging, my preference is the St. Regis. And at night, the pub in the basement at the Hyatt is, shall we say, interesting for people watching.

  • Igor

    Let’s go together. :-) I got miles, time and money. Never been to Asia.

  • qbrain

    In no particular order.

    Pick up a MRT (ez-pass) card at a 7-11. Taxi’s are cheap, but the MRT is cheaper, fast and clean and to me, part of the Singapore experience. Use it to get around downtown.

    Chili Crab and Pepper Crab at East Coast Seafood Center’s Long Beach Seafood outlet. Go for dinner, enjoy the view of all the container ships anchored. When you finish up, call for a taxi, the taxi line can be long and slow. This is best with a fairly large group. Bring a hand towel, it is messy business and you have to pay for wet naps.

    Clark Quay late for drinks. Walk down to the Merlion and views of the Marina Bay Sands. Definitely a night activity.

    Muthu’s for mutton or fish head curry and a lime juice. Lunch. A walk through Mustafa’s to experience Singapore’s Wal-Mart and see a bit of Little India. Then head over to Orchard/Scotts to see the other end of the Singapore shopping experience.

    Go to a Kopitiam for breakfast. It is about S$2.50 for a Kopi set of two runny eggs, kaya toast, fried chopped ham slice and a cup of Kopi (like coffee). I really think Kopi must be experienced for a foodie.

    Hawker Center food. I would not spend a meal at a fine dining venue given that I have not worked my way through all the traditional hawker center options yet. It is a foodie’s dream, cheap with tons of variety. Lunch, snack, dinner or after dinner nosh. I won’t get into the stall specific arguments, I just don’t have enough experience. Pick something that sounds good or interesting and find a place has a queue.

    Stand in a queue and mind the gap. Singapore classics :)

    If the sun is up, the goal is to get from where you are to where you want to be while going outside as little as possible. Singapore is pretty close to one big mall connected by SMRT stops.

    Are you going to be there during durian season? It is the king of fruits. ;)

  • marben

    Was in Singapore this time last year visiting my Wife’s family. I’d recommend going to Clarke Quay, lots of resaurants/bars/things to do. If your eating there I’d recommend Jumbo Seafood.

  • Allison Marino

    we went to singapore and cambodia in november. here are some ideas:

    if your hotel wont let you check in early, the shower/spa at the airport is super clean and cheap. we went to the rainforest spa and it was $8 for a shower with nice smelling soaps. completely worth it.

    little india is kind of a world unto itself in singapore and is a must see. skip the mustafa center though, nothing you really couldnt get back home other than the spices and foods.

    the singapore zoo is a cool trip but alot of the bigger animals are sleeping on the night safari.

    hawker centers are a must. chicken rice is fantastic. the most famous place is tian tian in the maxwell food center.

    clarke and robertson quays are a great place to wander for dinner and going out. really nice to sit on the water.

    and of course, walking around marina bay, esplanade and the merlion statue.

    have fun!

  • Doug G.

    Between you and The Frugal Travel Guy you both have helped so much in allowing me to understand my Membership Rewards and to maximize my points. Before I used to blindly use them on Amazon or booking travel and paying with points through amex travel for a skimpy .07 conversion at best and now im getting amazing value for my points with your tips on transfer bonuses and best ways to book. The work you do here is SO MUCH APPRECIATED!!!!!! you have a dedicated reader in me and all my future credit apps are coming via your blog :) thanks man !!!!!

  • Josh MacDonald

    So…BKK and SIN are amazing food destinations. In BKK make sure you find Khanom Tokyo’s they are sold on the street, you can either get sweet or my preferred savory versions stuffed with Quail eggs. In Singapore at the Chinatown MRT right outside across from the 7-11 is a stall that sells the best food I’ve ever eaten, I don’t know the name of it sadly (maybe someone can help) but it’s meat stuffed in dough and it’s spicy. Check out Soi 38 in BKK as well.

  • Singapore Flyer

    It wasn’t that bad of a ride and I did it in EE at the time, but I am sort of use to these 14+ hour types of flights – HK, KL, BKK, etc…

    You can down load hungrygowhere app for reviews – like Yelp.

    I totally second Amber’s comment on chili and black pepper crab…amazing stuff. Get it with deep fried buns (mon tao).

    There are quite a number of really good stalls for the chicken rice, tian tian supposedly one of the tops at the Maxwell food center, but quite frankly, look for long lines at any Hawker Center and you will be set.

    Laksa is also my favorite food – Katong laksa is the “authentic” style found near the East Coast that Gary mentioned in his blog. Can also try the Satay out there too.

    Agree with Michael et al that AB’s The Layover is much better than his No Reservation episode(s) on Singapore IMHO for pointers.

    My drink of choice is the Lime Juice(freshly squeezed only) at the stalls. 100x better than lemonade and not the same as limeade. Just a great way to cut the heat (food and temperature wise).

    Like most of Asia, Mega Mall Food Courts are not a bad thing and neither are the restaurants in many of the hotels.

    Got married in Sentosa, so it is a special place… Do the Segue tour around Sentosa if you have time. Night safari is a very interesting experience that needs to be experienced. Sort of creepy and cool at the same time (animals come out to hunt at night). You can take a tour of the Istana which is in town near Goodwood Park – Get to go into the home of the President of Singapore…not as grand as the WH, but cool nonetheless. Then go over to Goodwood Park for High Tea afterwards.

    Have a great time…will be there and many parts of SEA in December.

  • Teeh

    when is this trip? I might be around in May.

  • Neal

    Yum Cha in Chinatown for Dim Sum.

  • Kimberly

    You booked your ticket to Singapore for 60,000 one way or round trip in Business Class?

  • thepointsguy

    One way

  • Rambiboi

    Hawker Center Food is cheap and amazing! SG truly is a fusion of Asian cultures when it comes to food so you’ll be in for a treat? Where are you staying and for how long? Also, why not book a short hop to Phuket when you are in BKK? The beaches and experiences over there are definitely worth it!

    I did a similar trip last month to 10 Asian countries so all the memories are still fresh!

  • LEE

    NO chewing gum … :)
    Singapore is a FINE city … literally …

  • Cliburn

    I’d have drinks on the river and at the Fullerton. I would stay away from Orchard Road and Newton, but hit up the other Hawker Centers. Long line = good food. Wander around little India and Geylang.

  • StM

    Looking forward to seeing all the comments. Will be on a family trip to Singapore this summer. If you are interested in a nice hotel and pretty much the only legalized casino, check out the Marina Bay Sands. The view from the infiniti pool is to die for, imagine it by the city lights…. ( look for the 2nd photo)

    Definately if you are adventresome, the hawker centers are the best way to get a real unique taste of Singaporean food. Cheap, filling, and tasty!

  • Points Envy

    On my trip to Asia in November I saw some amazing sites, but this one was by far the best:

    Angkor Wat was incredible and the street food in Bangkok is not to be missed.

  • thrashsoundly

    I grew up in Singapore and thanks to you and other bloggers I’ll be going back soon for the first time in over 20 years. One thing I am looking forward to is a short hike up the hill in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The hill is just over 500 meters and is the highest point on the island. I remember having school trips there as a kid. It’s nice to escape into some lush rainforest to feel away from the hustle and bustle. Also, look out for the monkeys, they’ll steal your lunch!

    The zoo, botanic gardens and bird park are all pretty neat for a first-timer. However, I find the history and culture of the area fascinating, so I’d recommend digging deeper into the city rather than just seeing the main tourist attractions. Since many nationalities are well represented in Singapore, there are quite a few festivals and celebrations during the year, so check a local calendar before you go. Thaipusam has already passed this year, but it is an incredible sight.

    Sure, places like the ferris wheel and Marina Bay Sands are interesting, but being in a giant hotel, casino megaplex type area won’t give you the real feel of Singapore.

  • Daniel

    Hi Brian I just got back from Singapore 2 weeks ago and I had a great time. I would highly recommend having drinks in the evening at Lantern Bar at the Fullerton Bay Hotel ( It is a rooftop bar with the best view of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino and the evening light show around 8 or 9pm. It has a mellow atmosphere with no cover versus other venues.

    You can also check out One Altitude, which is the highest alfresco bar in the world.

    If you get to Singapore in June, you can see the opening of the highly anticipated Gardens by the Bay (

    Other things to check out are the cheap delicious food at the hawker centers. Try the oyster omelette and the grilled stingray with chilli sauce and plan for a whole day at the Zoo and Night Safari. For the zoo or night safari don’t take the tram, walking will allow you to get a better view of the animals.

    Happy travels!

  • Nat

    here are some of the things you MUST eat:
    typically food at hawker center is around $2-6 sing dollars (very cheap!)

    -chilli crab

    -laksa (THE BEST!!!!)

    -ice kacang durian (shaved ice)

    -hainan chicken rice

    -bak kut teh

    -roti prata

    -char kway teoy

    -carrot cake

    -ice cream wrapped in bread! $1…so good on a hot day! you can find this on orchard road

    -singapore sling (yummmy alcoholic beverage)

    - marina bay sands

    -newton circle is a hawker center (lots of stalls of people selling food) try the fried stingray, the sugar cane drink, fresh clams…mostly seafood stuff…just go to the stall that has the longest line. singaporeans are like this =)

    -on the bottom floor of takashimaya (mall in orchard) there are lots of food shops…go there! try everything! the squid balls, meat on stick, etc…(actually try everything on a stick)

    - ION mall food court

    -there’s a beef jerky stand that is really famous in singapore and it’s really good…but i forgot the name (sorry) chee something…

    -there’s lots of yummy restaurants along the singapore river in clarke quay. there a buncha hip clubs in this area too!

    also, FYI: you dont need to tip and dont need to clean up after yourself. after you’re done eating…just leave your plate there! okay, that’s all i can think of right now. ENJOY! I love Singapore. So much food, culture, and history.

  • qbrain

    Mei Jan Hong might be your jerky reference

  • Tahsir Ahsan

    Hi Brian!
    I’ve been to singapore at least 50 times over my lifetime because my mom works for singapore airlines!
    Firstly, you MUST MUST visit marina bay. it is awesome. The ferris wheel is amazing and we ended up taking it at 11:59 on new years to see the fireworks. You can also visit the skybar on top of the marina bay sands.

    Secondly…eat local!
    Go to Parkway Parade’s food court in the basement and you’ll find a variety of what singapore has to offer!

    Suntec city is also really cool and make sure you go and make a wish in the worlds biggest fountain!

    “Mustafa” is all you have to say to the taxi driver, and you’ll be off to probably the worlds biggest grocery/goods store! it’s open 24 hours and its like a costco on steroids! Watch your pocket though, because there are pick pockets.

    Right outside of mustafa is a restaurant called “AB Mohaamedei” This is an indian food place and it is amazing. (try their tandoori chicken and egg naan)

    Sentosa island is also an amazing area to look at where you can actually go on a scavenger hunt within the famous merlion!

    Also, Clarke quay & boat quay by the world famous Fullerton hotel is where the ORIGINAL merlion is. A lot of people go there to see it!

    Singapore is an amazing city Brian! I hope you have a great time & Birthday!
    You’ll love it there minus the crazy weather!

    Buy an umbrella from a street vendor and drink tons of milo (chocolate milk but better)

    Lastly, at changi airport, go to terminal 3 (the one you’ll land in) and go to the butterfly garden! it’s amazing and you’ll be shocked at how many there really are! also, in terminal 1, there is a 24 hour food court that sells “Singapore Laksa” this is an amazing soup type thing that I haven’t been able to find outside!

    Safe Travels!

  • Singapore Flyer

    Maybe Bee Cheng Hiang for bakkwa or Asian jerky.

  • qbrain

    That’s it, bak kwa is the name of the pork jerky, Mei Jan Hong and Bee Cheng Hiang are vendors/brands.

  • Gustav316

    Of course you will have to have a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel. Be sure to wear long pants or they will not let you in. As I tweeted to you before, you can find some sweet deals on Rolex watches there as well if that’s your thing. You should also experience one of the bars in Orchard Towers (e.g., Crazy Horse) on a Fri/Sat night. I wouldn’t recommend staying to long there however, because it can get a little nuts.

  • Jay

    Cool! Visit the Philippines as well :D I would be happy to tour you around Southeast Asia.

  • Andrew L

    The famous one is actually a place called Lim Chee Guan. There’s one at Ion and two in Chinatown (right across the street from one another).

  • Andrew L

    also, the pork is much more popular than the beef, fish, etc.

  • Andrew L

    A good way to try a lot of hawker food in one setting is the buffet at the Grand Hyatt (Straits Kitchen). It’s about ~S$50 for lunch but has about anything you’d want to try: char kuay teow, rojak, popiah, chicken rice, duck rice, laksa, satay, carrot cake (savory), chendol, ice kacang, kueh lapis, etc. And you can earn bonus Hyatt points if you’re staying at the hotel and charge it to your room! :)

    I’m living in Singapore this year and would be up to meet for a drink or meal. I actually live near what’s regarded to be one of the best local hawker centers (Old Airport Rd.) and work by another (Tiong Bahru Market). I have some travel coming up (back to the US for two weeks in March/April, Hanoi one weekend, Istanbul in early May), but send me an e-mail with your dates and maybe we can meet up!

  • David LeeKS

    Seems like you are skipping Malaysia are you? I’ll be glad to meet you if you are coming to Kuala Lumpur! And Of course, with advice to get around K.L.! :)

  • Dryly

    А ты че тоже пидарас?

  • TC

    Don’t chew gum. It’s illegal LOL! :D

  • MSPpete

    I second the suggestion about the orchid garden. A fantastic way to spend a few hours among an amazing variety of orchids!

  • Igor

    Dryly ….. you mean, toje kak ti? Net.

    To TPG Guy …. “пидарас” in Russian is a very bad word. Might want to remove this thing.

  • Junoes

    Singapore is definitely a hub for SEA travel, although you may not use your points, but the budget airlines are so cheap that it is worth saving your points for another time. You can fly Tiger Airways, Jet Star, Lion Air etc to nearby countries for avg S$100, and the 45 mins boat ride to Bintan Indonesia is worth a day trip too.

  • SingaporeDon

    Not true. Selling gum in Singapore is illegal. Bringing gum from abroad and eating it in Singapore is not illegal.

  • scentcrazy

    Doing almost the same trip in late Oct. early Nov. using the BA 100,000 mile sign up. Going JFK-HKG-BKK-SIN-JFK. So incredibly excited. reading all of the posts to get some great tips!

  • Dave

    I’ve got two trips planned for Singapore using tips I learned here. One is in April using BA 100k sign up bonus and the other is a paid mileage run in Nov with a ~$690 fare from EWR. Both I got from TPG.

    So to return the favor

    Clark Quay/Boat Quay for food
    Go to one hawker center (Lau Po Sat’ Newton Circus, etc) and get Satay or Hainan Chicken
    Night Safari is unique as is the bird park
    Orchard Rd for shopping, but much like NY
    Sim Lim Square or Funan is awesome place to get tech gadgets
    Sentosa is a bit touristy’ but beach is nice
    Pasir Ris for BBq seafood on beach
    Geylang has amazing food and tropical fruits (mangosteen, durian) – but is also a legal red light district. So weird. No gum, but prosecution is ok

  • Dave

    Hah, me too in April using BA miles. Damn didn’t think to put BKK in trip

  • Dave

    So when is your trip TPG?

    Also must try is garoupa fish pedicure. Little fish eating dead skin off your feet.


    Was in Singapore twice recently, and must recommend the arts museum (the lotus shaped building close to Marina Sands). They have good art and had a Titanic Exhibition going on which was interesting. Other than that, (although EXTREMELY touristy) Sentosa Island is nice for a afternoon of fun, and the cable car ride to get there has stunning views. Enjoy!

  • Matt

    There is so much to do in Singapore, but it pretty much all revolves around shopping and eating. You must have Chicken Rice, with some more Chicken Rice and yet some more Chicken Rice. There are few things better to be found in the world. Hawker centers are the place to go for this, complemented by a Tiger beer. Shopping is a national pastime, but I honestly did not find that much that cannot be found elsewhere. The Botanical Gardens are awesome, though make sure you hit them as early in the morning as you can since it gets so steamy so early there.

  • Guest

    Weird, I looked it up on the Singapore customs website before I went and saw that even “importing” (which apparently includes bringing a pack for personal use) is illegal. General info page (says that importing is only allowed if you do some paperwork ahead of time, deposit a guarantee of SGD10k, and immediately reexport it):

  • Katharine Rose

    I joined three Original Singapore Walks: Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. All three guides were entertaining, with an excellent knowledge of Singapore’s history. I was initially concerned that each of the tours involved stops at local shops but these stops turned out to provide insights into local Chinese Indian and Malay traditions. They included a Chinese herbal medicine shop, an Indian sweet shop, a shop where Muslims can buy non-alcholic perfumes, a sari shop, a sarong shop. There was never any pressure to buy from these. The walks included things you would miss if you travelled around the areas alone, e.g. an unidentified graveyard where members of the original Sultan’s family are buried, as well as provided interesting insights into Singaporean temples and mosques.

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    Hi there! Here is a compilation of everything that I did in Singapore:

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